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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Even the smallest gestures deserve thanks...

Since starting school again in September, I've found myself having to face the main transportation hub on an afternoon, and that several times a week. It was a pleasant surprise at the beginning to see uniformed police officers in the loading areas ensuring that maxi taxis arrived, picked up passengers and left the platforms in an orderly fashion. As such, the City Gate that I experience now is not that which I remember from just a few years ago. People do still rush for maxi taxis when they stop though, but the situation is not quite as bad as when PTSC staff tried in vain to control both milling crowd and recalcitrant drivers.

It was just beginning to get dark this evening as the maxi in which I travelled entered City Gate; I was on my way back into Port of Spain en route home. As we pulled into the transport hub, I was pleased to see our Policemen still at work. But I was even more pleased to see something done by the officer who was controlling the Arima Bus Route Platform.

A 25-seater air-conditioned maxi was coming down the chute as my maxi pulled into the offloading area. He pointed his baton, ordering the maxi to stop well before it made the turn to the loading bay, and then motioned three adults with eight or nine toddlers in tow toward the maxi. At the same time I noted that he kept a number of other persons from stepping off the platform to approach the maxi. Once he assured that the adults and their charges had all boarded and were seated, he motioned the maxi forward to finish picking up its load.

It was a very minor gesture, and I'm sure one that the Police do every evening at City Gate. I'm also positive that the parents, particularly those with two or more little children to marshal through the crush are happy to have that extra help getting their youngsters home. In a time where the Police are often maligned and castigated for doing little, I think the officers assigned to the City Gate and the other transportation hubs in the country are to be commended for these little things that they do in fact perform.

I hope that the parents make sure that their children say "thank you, Officer." Teaching the little ones gratitude ensures that they know that it's good to thank people for efforts made on their behalf. It also serves to ensure that they grow up knowing that preferential treatment is not something to which they're necessarily entitled. But even if they don't offer their sincere thanks, I do, as a member of the travelling public.

From me to all of the Officers so assigned, thank you for making passage through our transportation hubs easier. And do keep up the good work.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Press Responsibility... Oxymoron?

I received a call from a very annoyed acquaintance yesterday, and we had a long chat on the seeming absence of accountability and professionalism in the local mainstream press. They hit particularly hard on a story carried by one of the dailies where a member of the public's request for anonymity was very technically denied by the reporter covering the story. He said that he'd used the newspaper's comments form - again - to attempt to raise the issue of possibly endangering a potential witness in the crime that was being covered. But like his letters and other comments to the paper, largely constructive, his comment seemed to be ignored in favour of "uninformed and ignorant responses to the day's issues made by narrow-minded unthinkers."

My view of the particular media house already at a negative position given a previous "interaction" with their editorial staff, I still held some hope for them given their recent wave of new hires, and the now even-handed coverage of one particular reporter in the political space. But their editors still seem to permit release of inflammatory opinion masquerading as truth on an otherwise uninformed public. And, as in this case, operate irresponsibly in their crime coverage. Were the criminals in this case able to deduce the identity of the witness given the information provided by the story, certainly the newspaper and the reporter would have denied vehemently any culpability in the matter.

One would have hoped that a media group with their regional scope would focus more on public education, clear and even reporting, and a minimisation of sensationalism. But alas! Sensation is what sells newspapers, increases advertising revenue, and boosts the share price. And it can be surmised that their share price is way more important than their news coverage given its prominence on the front page of the group's web site.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Moral Compasses

Does any of the following conversation sound like something that we're likely to hear right here at home?

In television series based on crime scene investigations in a land seeming far removed from our own, a group of young people go on a spree of senseless violence before being apprehended. The following conversation takes place in the officers' locker room as they try to rationalise the events of the previous few days and the behaviour of the young perpetrators:

Catherine Willows: Pig... and the piglets... are in the pigpen.

Warrick Brown: About time. Finally some good news.

Catherine: Did you know Pig, aka Cole Tritt, was the only adult? The rest of them were under 18. One was 14.

Warrick: Are you kidding? Who raises these kids?

Catherine: They weren't all delinquents. Demetrius James was a college student...

Nick Stokes: Hanging out with the wrong crowd in the wrong town. I'm tellin' ya. A fake ID in Las Vegas is like having a free ticket on the hell train. Sex, drugs, gambling, no adult supervision, 24/7. By the time they're 21, they've done and seen it all...

Catherine: Make me slit my wrists, why don'tcha! I'm raising a teenager here!

Warrick: Aw, you're doing a great job. Lindsay's gonna turn out to be a beautiful young woman. Besides, I grew up in Vegas. I didn't turn out so bad, did I?

Nick: Yeah! That was pre-Mirage, back when you were a lil' squirt going to the casino playing the arcade games. Naw. Vegas is a different animal now.

Warrick: Yeah, those kids need to beat people up in the street to be entertained. They just need some discipline... they need... uh... a grandmother whuppin' their ass, like I had.

Nick: Yeah! (Smiles and nods) A good slap...

Sara Sidle: Y'know... it sounds like you guys are blaming everybody but these kids. I mean, you don't get a bye just because you grew up here, or your parents were on drugs. Those kids were perferctly capable of telling the difference between a wild night out and beating somebody to death.

Gil Grissom: The truth is a moral compass can only point you in the right direction. It can't make you go there. Our culture preaches that you shouldn't be ashamed of anything you do anymore. And unfortunately this city is built on the principle that there's no such thing as guilt. Do whatever you want. We won't tell. So without a conscience, there's nothing to stop you from killing someone. And evidently, you don't even have to feel bad about it.

- CSI, Season 7 Episode 4, "Fannysmackin'"

Thursday, October 12, 2006

HEALTHBOLT: What happens to your body if you stop smoking right now

I've been discussing the most infamous items in the 2006-07 National Budget with fellow QRC Alumni recently, that is, the decision to close down private members' clubs (read: casinos), and impose additional taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. It's interesting then that today on another blog, Healthbolt, I run across a post that details the impact on one's body of an immediate cessation of cigarette use. The original posting, found here , at Healthbolt.com follows.

I think one of the main reasons it’s so hard to quit smoking is because all the benefits of quitting and all the dangers of continuing seem very far away. Well, here’s a little timeline about some of the more immediate effects of quitting smoking and how that will affect your body RIGHT NOW.
  • In 20 minutes your blood pressure will drop back down to normal.

  • In 8 hours the carbon monoxide (a toxic gas) levels in your blood stream will drop by half, and oxygen levels will return to normal.

  • In 48 hours your chance of having a heart attack will have decreased. All nicotine will have left your body. Your sense of taste and smell will return to a normal level.

  • In 72 hours your bronchial tubes will relax, and your energy levels will increase.

  • In 2 weeks your circulation will increase, and it will continue to improve for the next 10 weeks.

  • In three to nine months coughs, wheezing and breathing problems will dissipate as your lung capacity improves by 10%.

  • In 1 year your risk of having a heart attack will have dropped by half.

  • In 5 years your risk of having a stroke returns to that of a non-smoker.

  • In 10 years your risk of lung cancer will have returned to that of a non-smoker.

  • In 15 years your risk of heart attack will have returned to that of a non-smoker.
So, you have more immediate things to look forward to if you quit now besides just freaking out about not being able to smoke.

Of course, I assume that this only applies if you don't already have emphysema or some other chronic condition related to prolonged cigarette use. Further and very vivid discussion on what a smoker can expect when they quit can be found here.

This material though leads me to wonder what the impact will be on non-smokers who are similarly less exposed to cigarette smoke.

Healthbolt.com Article: What Happens to Your body if you stop smoking Right now?
Wikipedia Article: Emphysema
Reddit Discussion Board: What Happens to Your body if you stop smoking Right now?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sexual Assault & HIV Prevention

Rape, (n) the act of forcing penetrative sexual acts, against another's will through violence, force, threat of injury, or other duress, or where the victim is unable to decline, due to the effects of drugs or alcohol.
It is a scary fact that many people will know someone who has been sexually assaulted, and further that they may not ever know that the person was ever raped. Further, I make the careful distinction of using gender-neutral "person" because rape is not a male-on-female crime.

It is likely, especially if the victim is male, the attack has not been violent per se, or the assailant is known to the victim, that they will be unwilling to report the incident. Consequently, they will deny themselves of access to extremely important medical and other support services.

One of the more dire things about rape, apart from physical and mental trauma, is the possible contraction of sexually transmitted disease. Fortunately, most diseases are treatable with prescribed antibiotics. Further, if dealt with very early, the possibility of HIV infection is also significantly reduced or it can be completely preventable. However, administration of treatment inside of a seventy-two hour window is key and critical to treatment success.

I've been advised by a friend, a doctor involved in HIV research here in Trinidad, that it is extremely important for women and men alike to know that treatment and support are available to them locally, particularly with respect to HIV prevention. This is even if they do not want to make a formal report of the incident to the Police. Medical support and confidential counselling can be provided regardless.

The victim can visit any of the public health institutions in the country to seek initial assistance, where one of the first things on the agenda will be testing for HIV and other STDs. Immediately following this, treatment can begin which can include medication for pregnancy prevention, as well as antibiotics to prevent contraction of sexually transmitted disease.

Where the victim has tested HIV negative, medical treatment then includes HIV Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PEP. HIV PEP can take many forms, but is usually delivered as a cocktail of antiretroviral medication taken over the course of four to six weeks. Again, given any possibility that the assailant was HIV positive, treatment needs to begin within seventy-two hours of the incident to be most effective.

Once PEP is administered, follow-up over the course of treatment is done at Ward 2 of the San Fernando General Hospital and at the Medical Research Centre in Port of Spain. Additional HIV testing is done after six weeks, three months and six months, this to ensure that infection has not taken place. All the while, the victim has access to counsellers at both centres, and at the Rape Crisis Centre.

There is though the occasion where the victim will test positive for HIV at the outset, will have already known themselves to be HIV positive, or will still contract the virus despite administration of HIV PEP. As my friend indicates, the public health care system does still take care of the victim, with on-going counselling and regular antiretroviral and antiretrofungal medication. This too is administered by Ward 2 at the San Fernando General Hospital and the Medical Research Centre in Post of Spain.

It is of extreme importance that a victim of sexual assault get help as soon as possible after the incident. The health of the victim is paramount, even if there is no desire to have the Police involved. Despite this, it is still highly recommended that the assault be reported so that steps can be taken to ensure that the perpetrator never has opportunity to rape again.

Rape Crisis Society of Trinidad & Tobago
40 Woodford St., Newtown, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Phone: (868) 622-7273 (Port of Spain), (868) 657-5355 (San Fernando)
Fax: (868) 622-1079
Email: rapetnt@tstt.net.tt

Medical Research Centre
7 Queen's Park East, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Phone: (868) 623-5834

San Fernando General Hospital
Independence Avenue, San Fernando, Trinidad
Phone: (868) 652-3581 to 86
Ask for Ward 2, then ask for the Counsellor

Types of Rape
A discussion of the different kinds of sexual assault, including child abuse, and acquaintance rape.

Effects of Rape & Aftermath
A discussion on the immediate and ongoing impact of sexual assault, and the societal victimization that can take place.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Animae Caribe 2006: Animation, Film & New Media

I was up at UWI yesterday on my way to class, and happened upon a bunch of students on my way across the JFK Quadrangle. They were spread out all over the ground, and seemed to be drawing on the Quad in chalk. By the time I got back from my class an hour later, a number of the concrete slabs had been transformed to some really nice pieces of artwork.

A few questions later, I found that the afternoon's activity was a promotional effort put on by students of the Creative Arts Centre for the 2006 Animae Caribe Caribbean Animation and New Media Festival. The festival runs from October 5th to 7th, 2006, and is to be held at the University of the West Indies' St. Augustine Campus. Full information on the festival, and on Animae Caribe in general, can be found at http://www.animaecaribe.com. The site lists as a contact Camille Selvon Abrahams (cabrahams@animaecaribe.com).

That aside though, the funny thing about the chalk drawings is that not all of them were done by students involved in the festival, nor only by students attached to the Creative Arts Centre. Some were produced by students who saw an opportunity to have some expressive fun on a relatively cool Monday afternoon.

I've tried to capture a few images with my phone. The photos are not bad, but they don't do full justice to some of these guys' work. They do serve though as a personal reminder that I need to start walking with a real camera for times such as these.

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